New standards make education more relevant
Critics of the new Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards will have you think the standards are about indoctrination and politics to detract from the real goal, which is to prepare educators for the realities of Illinois' diverse classrooms.
The standards are actually a by-product of work that began in the previous Republican administration. They were created by a diverse group of educators from across the state who understand a fundamental truth: As the demographics of Illinois continue to change, it's become increasingly clear that our current education system needs to change too.
In Illinois, 52 percent of public-school students are nonwhite and English learners make up the fastest-growing student population, yet only 17 percent of their teachers reflect this racial diversity.
Research shows that academic gains increase when teachers thoughtfully connect learning to students' lives, cultures and community contexts. These new standards acknowledge that cultural differences and potential language barriers may exist between student and teacher. The standards provide data-driven best practices to ensure the toolbox of aspiring educators will be fully equipped to reach every child, regardless of any aspect of their identities.
The standards do not change what teachers teach. The fundamentals remain math, science, reading, history and the arts. Rather, the standards prepare future teachers to make that content more relevant to students who may be different from them. As we look at the significant challenges ahead, such as learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for these practices to boost student achievement could not be any clearer.
I wish to emphasize: The standards contain nothing political and certainly no mandates around what to think or believe -- except to believe in each child's unique value and potential, which I hope is something lawmakers on both sides of the aisle can agree on.
State Rep. Fred Crespo